So by now, you should be feeling pretty good about your party planning skills. You have decided on a date, time, and venue. You came up with a theme, made your budget and you're sticking to it! The guest list is set and the invitations are in the mail. You chose the style of dining and the service method you will use.
The next step is setting stage--
Dinnerware, flatware, glassware, linens, napkins rings, place cards, menu cards, flowers, candles, decorations, party favors, and music all work together to create a memorable event.
If you are holding a casual event, china may be used or you may use plastic/paper dinnerware. Obviously, you should use formal dinnerware, flatware, and glassware for a formal event. For informal occasions, placemats and runners may be used instead of a tablecloth. For formal and elegant occasions, crisp, starched, white damask linen is my favorite choice, with ivory being my second choice. Napkin rings are another way to bring a decorative touch to the table and may be used at breakfast, lunch, tea, or an informal dinner. Place cards help to bring the theme together on your tablescape, while making guests feel special. You might want to have a menu card on the table to coordinate with your place cards.
Flowers and candles add to the festive atmosphere of any event. Avoid heavily fragrant arrangements or candle scents at the dining table. All sorts of vessels may be used to contain your flowers or candles; i.e., teapots, vases, glass cylinders, buckets, compotes, etc. Just be sure that guests will be able to see each other during the meal. Music, whether it is lively or background tunes, is a very important element in creating a relaxed atmosphere. Try to match the music with the theme of your event. To complete the ambiance of your event, use any other party decorations that will accent your theme; i.e., balloons, streamers, beads, flags, etc.
Party favors are a nice way of thanking your guests for coming to your event. I always try to give party favors that coordinate with the theme of my event.
The final step in getting ready for your event is to prepare the venue or your home. Make sure that your home says "Welcome!" to your guests. Your front door area should be clean and well lit. The bathroom will get lots of use, so make sure it is clean and stocked with all the necessities: bath tissue, hand soap (I prefer pump bottles in a guest bath/powder room), hand drying napkins, a fragrant candle, and a wastebasket. Make sure your home is warm/cool enough for your guests and set aside an area for coats, handbags, or umbrellas.
Now you are ready to get the holiday season started!